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Government Seeks to Avert Strike with Payment Promise

FG Appeals to Unions to Cancel Ultimatum, Pledges Immediate Action

by Oluwatosin Racheal Alabi

In a crucial development on February 14, 2024, the Federal Government of Nigeria has committed to resuming the payment of wage awards to workers, aiming to address the concerns raised by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). This announcement was made amidst a tense backdrop where labor unions had issued a 14-day ultimatum to the government, demanding the implementation of a 16-point agreement previously reached on October 2, 2023. The ultimatum underscored the unions’ impatience with delays in the agreement’s fulfillment, threatening significant labor action that could disrupt various sectors nationwide.

Mr. Olajide Oshundun, speaking on behalf of Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, revealed that a pivotal meeting was convened with the leadership of the NLC and TUC in Abuja. The purpose was to reassure the labor unions of the government’s intentions to honor its commitments and to urge them to reconsider their ultimatum in light of the government’s efforts to address their concerns.

During the meeting, Minister Onyejeocha emphasized the government’s dedication to fulfilling the agreement but noted that some aspects of the agreement required phased implementation. She advocated for continued dialogue as the most effective path forward, highlighting the government’s commitment to the well-being of its workforce. “I am here to show good cause on why some agreements have not been met,” Onyejeocha expressed, indicating the government’s readiness to expedite the implementation process.

Furthermore, Onyejeocha appealed to the labor unions for patience and understanding, assuring them of President Buhari’s sincerity and dedication to resolving the issues at hand. “I plead with you to sheathe your sword,” she implored, promising that the government’s actions would soon meet and even surpass the expectations of the labor organizations.

Additionally, the meeting touched upon the progress of the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses initiative, a significant aspect of the 16-point agreement aimed at easing transportation for workers. Michael Oluwagbemi, Programme Director and CEO of the Presidential CNG initiative, participating virtually, informed attendees that 70% of the payment for the new CNG buses and kits had been made. He outlined a timeline for the local assembly of these buses and tricycles, projecting commencement between March and April 2024, signaling a concrete step towards fulfilling the government’s promises.

Joe Ajaero, President of the NLC, responded to the government’s plea by urging a commitment to meeting the 14-day deadline, which began on February 9, 2024. The labor leader’s stance reflects the unions’ resolve to see tangible progress in the implementation of the agreed-upon terms.

The Federal Government’s plea to the NLC and TUC marks a critical juncture in the ongoing dialogue between Nigeria’s labor force and its governing bodies. As the deadline approaches, the government’s efforts to bridge the gap between its assurances and the unions’ expectations could avert potential disruptions, paving the way for a more collaborative and trustful relationship between the state and its workforce. The coming days will be pivotal in determining whether the government’s reassurances and actions will suffice to meet the labor unions’ demands and prevent the execution of the ultimatum.

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